After a pour fifth place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will return home to reassess his campaign. That’s usually code for dropping out, but a final decision hasn’t been made.
The signs of a possible drop out were evident as soon as I met with a couple of Perry campaign staff after the returns started coming in. One simply said “We did it Campaign 101. The most precinct captains. Strong ground game. Message. I don’t know.” They had 500 volunteers from 32 states trained up and scattered all over Iowa in the closing days, working long hard hours since Boxing Day to cover just about every inch of the state.
There was also, at that moment, a serious discussion going on upstairs in the hotel between Gov. Perry, his family and a few close advisers regarding the campaign’s future. I asked if a drop out was possible, and the long time adviser said he didn’t know. This particular staffer always knows. Bad sign.
In the Perry event room itself, the mood wasn’t exactly down or up. It was hard to read. Maybe a muted defiance laced with disbelief. Rick Perry had never lost an election before. He was 9-0. One caucus surrogate told a pair of others to “Buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
A few minutes before Gov. Perry returned to the stage with his family to address his supporters, the big screen flared to life with Perry’s ads and videos, one after the other, strong and positive ads. The mood in the room lifted, and two videos — one featuring war veterans supporting Perry, and the other featuring the governor’s wife Anita — drew sustained cheers. When Perry read a letter from a supporter who had “visited 1000 homes” to support the governor and then mentioned his willingness to work for him in South Carolina, the crowd roared. That seemed be a hint.
Then came the line that took the air out of the room: “With the voters decision tonight in Iowa, I have decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s caucus, and determine if there is a path forward for myself in this race.”
A woman in the crowd near me reacted, “There is!”